11 September 2009

Nigeria: Vmobile Sale - Ibori, Tinubu, Attah Cleared of Money Laundering

Abuja — The Federal Government yesterday reaffirmed that three former governors who were accused of money laundering have been cleared by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Governors Ahmed Bola Tinubu, (Lagos) James Ibori (Delta) and Obong Victor Attah (Akwa Ibom) were allegedly involved in the sale of V-mobile network shares in 2004, a transaction the EFCC then said was not transparent and amounted to conspiracy and money laundering. Speaking to newsmen yesterday in Abuja, Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Michael Aondoakaa said although the EFCC had cleared all three governors of the allegations in January 2009, the British Metropolitan Police on June 22 sent a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request seeking information on the same issue.

According to the request, the governors had been contracted by a company named Africa Development Fund Incorporation (ADFI) and had given them the mandate to sell their shares in V-mobile.

Aondoakaa, who said he was not aware of the pending investigation at the time he came into office, added that EFCC had also sent a letter to Access Bank as one of the banks used for the transaction and ordered that they stay all transactions on the account, an order which was reversed in January 2009 when the governors were cleared.

"At the time I came into office, I had no knowledge of the investigation. And at the time the request of the British government came in June, EFCC had investigated the matter; found that it had no merit and cleared them of money laundering charges. Attah was even paid 25 million in an out of court settlement as damages by African Peer Review Committee for listing him as a corrupt governor," he said.

Even though it is alleged in a letter from the British government that the governors did participate in money laundering, the AGF said he cannot grant a request where all the parties are domicile in Nigeria.

"In their letter from the British government, they mentioned David Edevibe 'Principal Private Secretary to the President' as one of the signatories in one of the documents but he never participated in it. The documents carry the signature of Dr. S.O Okpokpor".

While stating that the inclusion of Edevibe's name is an attempt to embarrass the Nigerian government and anyone who is close to the President, he described reports which said that he stopped all corruption cases since he became AGF as blackmail. "I will not relent in punishing people with corruption charges. I began the corruption war as directed by the government; I have charged several people to court beginning with the federal government. I have also given a directive that all those who violated the public procurement process should be charged to court," he said.

Speaking on the delay of the report of police committee set up to investigate the Halliburton scandal; he said it was basically due to change in leadership.

He also said countries like Switzerland and France returned requests sent to them from Nigeria asking that they translate them form English to their languages because they cannot act on it while it is written in English.

He also reacted to reports which said he had kept to himself the sum of 50 million naira meant for the police committee set up to investigate the scandal. He said the money was not in his possession as it was given to the police.

He advised Nigerians to desist from embarrassing the country with frivolous legal suits in foreign courts. He wasreacting to former EFCC Chairman Malam Nuhu Ribadu's petition to a court in London, accusing Nigeria of stalling the prosecution of some corrupt government officials.

Ribadu alleged t the c Ministry of Justice interfered with the prosecution of former governors Bola Tinubu of Lagos State, Victor Attah of Akwa Ibom and James Ibori of Delta.

As a result of the petition, the British Government, through the UK police, has reopened the case in a court in London.

The EFCC on Jan. 12 cleared the former governors, AFDFI and Access Bank Plc of the charges of conspiracy, money laundry, abuse of office and official corruption.

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